A few things I’ve learned from Mumford & Sons

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It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged about Mumford & Sons, hasn’t it?

It’s time to change that.

Surely you all knew it was just a matter of time.

Or maybe you didn’t, if you don’t follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

If you don’t follow me, let me introduce myself to you in the following manner:

My name is Erin, and I’m a hopeless sobbing Mumford & Sons fangirl.

In my defense, I didn’t choose the fangirl life.  The fangirl life chose me.  I can’t help that their music broke my heart and messed with my feelings when I first heard it.  And then I realized they were handsome and English and funny and that made my obsession even worse.  And then I saw them from the front row in Dixon, Illinois, and then they appeared on “Saturday Night Live,” and then they won Album of the Year at the Grammys…

It’s out of control.  They’ve basically ruined my life.

In all seriousness, though, I found Mumford & Sons at a pivotal stage in my life journey, when my faith life got turned on its head (which you can read a bit more about here).

It’s been about two years since I found their music, so I’ve had a lot of time to ponder the pull that Mumford & Sons have had on me in that time.  I actually wrote an essay in my senior year creative writing class about the role they’ve played in my life and I plan to continue crafting it into something publishable.

But until then, here are some of the main points of that essay, whittled into mini lessons.

Feelings are good

When I found Mumford & Sons, I had become so absorbed in my faith journey that I had nearly forgotten what it was like to feel much else besides anything related to it:  the joy I found in prayer, the sadness I felt when I feared that I would never live up to my perceived calling, things like that.  I know I felt other feelings, of course, but before I started to question my faith, my relationship with God was very much based on feelings of warmth and happiness:  as long as I had those feelings, I was on the right track.  And then those feelings of warmth and happiness disappeared and I thought that meant I had lost my way.  And then Mumford & Sons came along and their music made me feel all kinds of things that I hadn’t felt in years:  grief, confusion, fear of uncertainty, romance, a yearning to be open and vulnerable and authentic and to figure out who I was.  Those feelings had nothing to do with God, but I didn’t really care.  I realized for the first time in awhile that there’s more to being human than worshipping religious perfection.  Being human means being fully immersed in the world, not removed from it like I had been led to believe.  And that means allowing yourself to really feel whatever emotions that might bring.  Feelings are beautiful, even the not-so-nice ones, because they remind you that you’re alive and that you haven’t lost touch with yourself or the world around you.  Mumford & Sons helped me relearn that.

Sometimes questioning is the best way to grow

Mumford & Sons include lots of references to God and religious imagery in their music, but don’t call them a Christian band.  I hear more doubt and uncertainty in their music than I do faith, actually.  As my faith in my pre-Mumford life grew, I always believed that questioning my faith was a sign of weakness.  But when my own doubts about God started to creep into my life, I found comfort in Mumford & Sons’ ability to speak about God in a non-preachy way and even in a way that expressed doubt.  One line from “Winter Winds” stood out to me when I first heard the song:

“The shame that sent me off from the God that I once loved was the same that sent me into your arms.”

The thought of replacing God with a lover was outright taboo in my mind when my faith life was stronger.  But hearing that lyric somehow made me less afraid to question what I had come to believe about God and less ashamed to give myself some distance from him so I could figure my life and myself out.  I’ve heard that faith is strongest when it’s truly your own, not something that you continually practice out of force or habit or because it’s what your mom tells you to do.  I’m definitely liking that approach to faith.  It meets my needs and my journey, not what other people tell me I should be.  I owe a lot of that courage to question and to own my faith to Mumford & Sons.

Trust the journey

“One foot in sea, one on the shore.”

“I’m scared of what’s behind and what’s before.”

“Darkness is a harsh term, don’t you think?  And yet it dominates the things I see.”

These are a few lyrics from Mumford & Sons’ debut album.  A big reason why I clung to that album when I first found it was because of the honesty and the openness about the things that we don’t always like to talk about, like what’s written above:  fear, uncertainty of the future, confusion.  I was facing a lot of confusion when I found Mumford & Sons, and their music kept me sane as I tried to make sense of the twists and turns in my journey.  Even though their music speaks candidly of uncertainty, Mumford & Sons also offer a big dose of hope that things will always work out the way they should.  My favorite song, “The Cave,” has always helped me to trust that things would end right, no matter how hopeless they seemed.  I even had my favorite lyrics printed on a bracelet so I could wear them as a reminder:

“I’ll find strength in pain and I will change my ways; I know my name as it’s called again.”

Don’t take yourself too seriously

Mumford & Sons have made it clear that they’re emotional guys who write about the tough, gritty stuff in their hearts.  And their music has brought help and healing to many people.  Don’t worry, though, they’re not weeping, bleeding hearts all the time.  They’re quite silly when they’re not making music.  Here’s some proof.  And here.  And here.  (I struggled picking just three links to post…there are so many great Mumford moments on YouTube.)  When I was trying to make sense of the sudden change in my faith life, my campus minister gave me a piece of advice that I try to remember today:  don’t be so serious all the dang time, and don’t be afraid to let your hair down and have fun, even when life becomes confusing.  And Mumford & Sons’ silliness is a fine reminder of that whenever I forget.  It’s easy for me to get bogged down with negative feelings and fear, but I’m learning that there’s no use wallowing in those things.  There’s always something worth smiling about.

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One thought on “A few things I’ve learned from Mumford & Sons

  1. Pingback: Introducing…Music Mondays | Erin Daly

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